Recently, as I have been trying to finish my book, I have often thought back to the year 1999, when I left the gay lifestyle, porn, and death – and the Lord carried me to a safe place of healing and protection. For this reason, I love the image of the Good Shepherd, surely this is what Jesus did for me. He found me: wasted and half-dead, picked me up, even though I stank of sin and corruption, and took me back to His home. There, Our Lady nursed me back to health, and the stalwart St. Joseph taught me what it truly meant to be a man. When I tried going back to the Lord's House, I found it unlike the little home of Nazareth. When I was a young teenager, I walked away from the Catholic Church. I thought it useless and silly. I longed for a true devotion that included doctrines, mysteries, and ritual. I thought I found that in the occult. Back with the Church, I limped to a local parish and became immediately disenchanted. Nothing much had changed in over 10 years. From the start, I got blasted with loud piano and guitar music. I thought: these people are way too cheery. Britney Spears was super-hot at the time, and many of the young girls in attendance wore belly-shirts with ample amount of muffin-top showing. The priest appeared lackadaisical, the homilies left me asking: “What did he say?” It was all so trivial and forgettable. At the Our Father someone tried to roughly grab my hand; I instinctively pulled away. At Communion, the altar area became crowded with distracted looking lay women. I was exhausted. I was like a wounded animal – shoved in a cage. I wanted it to be quiet and peaceful, and I needed to be mended. I kept thinking, don’t get close to me, I will bite your arm off. Disgruntled, I found out about a Latin Mass in Sacramento. I didn’t want to make the trip, especially every Sunday, let alone everyday, but I went anyway.
The Church, was in a dumpy part of town that bordered on scary. The priests were merely guests at the parish. (Years later, they would found their own chapel.) I walked in, and the architecture was nice, but stripped down. The place was packed, and I got relegated to a pew towards the back. I knelt. The church overflowed with modestly dressed women and men in suits. I thought: “What's an ex-porn star doing here?” “I must be crazy.” Then the priest arrived: a hush took over; and the Mass began. The priest's beautiful cadence, the deliberate and graceful movements when he handled the sacred vessels, and his palpable Faith, transformed the dreary surroundings. I had never seen a man be so angelic and beautiful, but remain entirely masculine. I felt myself getting swept up. I had no idea what he was saying in Latin, but it felt holy. When he addressed the congregation, he spoke about the modern world, about sin, and the constant need to combat evil. All that I thought I desired in the swirling embers of the occult, I found in Catholic tradition. “Why had we abandoned it?” God led me to this church. Here, I could find solace and time to reflect and ask for pardon. I didn’t need the tambourines, I needed to be able to hear the calming whisper of Jesus Christ. I stayed there for as long as I could, but the past still haunted me. The devil kept my sins before me, and I could not accept the loving forgiveness of the Lord. I ran away. I fooled myself, and others, into believing that I had a religious vocation, but I just really wanted to get away from San Francisco, my horrible former life, and all that I had done. I joined a semi-monastic community secluded in the deep wounds of Pennsylvania, and the Lord placed me in His arms and shielded me from the devil. But, the Church is not a place to escape. The Lord brought me back to the sight of my former near-annihilation. Here, He asked me to speak. To tell the story.
|(Catacomb of Callixtus)|